THE 12: #7 PLAY SINGLE-HIGH
WHILE the Eagles play with one Safety deeper than the other they actually play a loose version of a Cover-2 (aka Cover-2 Shell) where the Safeties drop deep and allow the CB to release their man to a Safety after a point. A lot of teams (like the Eagles) try to cheat and keep the SS nearer the line, but still dropped into a zone about 12-18 yards off the line of scrimmage. This deforms the “shell” of the Cover-2, by not keeping both Safeties on the same horizontal plane. (Sorry, this is as simple as I can explain this and it took a week to boil it down this far.)
Back when Jim Johnson was the Defensive Coordinator here he employed Brian Dawkins around the line or in a zone depending on what he wanted done. Quintin Mikell on the other hand was back deep most of the time, playing what is known as Single-High, or a Cover-1. Some teams use the Tampa-2, where the MLB drops into an underneath zone, allowing both Safeties to drop to equal depth.
The problem with the present day Eagles quasi Cover-2 is it confuses the SS. It makes him responsible for immediate fills against the run while still maintaining coverage. This is standard SS duty, from high school to the pro’s. The caveat is that it makes him more likely to bite on fakes, which pull him out of position.
You almost never saw Q out of position and here’s why: Single-High, Cover-2, and Tampa-2 are more assignment based which keeps players from being out of position. Those coverages eliminate the guesswork and allow players to read what is happening, as opposed to re-acting to the first cue they’re shown. What the Eagles run now is an attempt to have it both ways with deep coverage AND run fills.
You see how that’s worked out.
Here’s an experiment: Line up in front of a friend as if you’re a CB playing man-press. Have your friend release off the line. After a brief handfight, you will find yourself in what’s called the trail position (as the only way to cover him, is to follow him). This is fine, because in 15 yards you’ll release him to a Safety and— The Safety bit on a fake! You’re toast.
Back when the Eagles were playing Single-High, the CB’s (Sheldon Brown, Lito Sheppard, Asante Samuel) all played with cushions that invited passes in front of them, not behind them. When we first got Man-press experts Nnamdi Asomugha and DRC, I figured the Safeties were going to a Cover-2
that would help them "bracket" and create a “Shark Tank” (that’s what I called it) of hitting, tipped passes and loose balls. Instead what we got was a deep coverage philosophy that was easy to short circuit.
If Man-press is no longer the way the CB’s are playing, then Single-High is the best remedy for the Secondary if we draft a FS. If we don’t draft a FS, and we head into 2013 with 2012’s starters, then we need to go to a genuine Cover-2 to cover Kurt Coleman’s lack of speed. We don’t have a MLB who can run in coverage well enough to be good at the Tampa-2. That’s not a knock on DeMeco Ryans, it’s just not his game.
The whole point is to invite passes to happen with 4 sets of eyes on them instead of just 1 (CB in a trail position). Deep coverage is a problem which doesn’t require a roster move to fix it. It would require a roster move to upgrade it and make us good or potentially dangerous; but we do have the tools to be adequate back deep. So if that FA Safety help many are praying for doesn’t come, don’t be freaked out.
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